More often than not we will find that our discontent with outer reality is a reflection of the neglected and unresolved yearnings of our soul. Our displeasure with some aspect of our career often points to a conflict or unresolved dilemma of our life’s purpose; a pattern of problems with particular types of people mirrors a hidden and ugly quality we would rather not face in ourselves; or a preoccupation with trivial fears and phobias may be set off by failing to surrender to a greater internal battle. A failure to engage in deep psychological work to find the origin of such external distress that really arises from within tends to lead us in an illusory path of seeking relief. We may habitually change jobs, partners, places of residence, religions, friends, etc- all at an attempt to be released from the debilitating internal struggle of psychological conflicts that most times erroneously reflect external circumstances, people, and events. These attempts prove to be futile in the long run as the person may seek release through extreme escape behaviors of severe isolation and compulsive habits. When we perceive there is no where to turn to, when life gets incredibly uncomfortable to bear, the result is the beginning of addictive behavior. Addiction is a desperate attempt to find release from external and internal conflict when resolution cannot be found- it is the mind’s most resourceful way of getting free from a build up of psychological madness that threatens to obliterate the little comfort that is left.
Addiction personifies a universal problem. Society is on the go and yet so stagnant, so fast paced and yet ridden with a melancholic disposition. We are going no where fast, tending to problems erroneously or superficially, fatally ignoring the cries of our psychological lives. The end result always being a series of temporary departures from reality where our lives and structure remain unchanged. Perhaps its time to reckon that we have missed the mark, that we’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places and as long as we continue in the same direction, we won’t find peace but a disruption, or even worse, an obliteration of life.
Healing begins when we are tired, when we stop to say there is something wrong here, and perhaps it’s within me. Facing oneself honestly is painful-the mirror doesn’t change to our opposing responses or sensibilities. However, it is only through the undertaking of swallowing hard truth about ourselves and deciding to take action is when the possibility of a better life is made apparent.
Society demands the addict to “stop” yet has no real grasp on what recovery means to begin with. To a lesser degree, we all play out escape behaviors, saturating ourselves with unreality and ideals, falling into the traps of fabricated definitions of humanity. Yet we demand the addict to stop and do everything wrong to make him stop because the addiction, although more or less in all of us, is more visible in the drug addict. The remedy for any addiction is reality, a reality that questions one’s purpose, what the world is, and who or what created us— and in turn live according to such questions. But as long as we turn away from reality, we turn towards addiction and enable others to continue the path of a diluted and destructive existence.
We talk too much, often expressing what we think we desire rather than taking time to listen to ourselves… it’s no wonder we fluctuate between anxiety and depression. Our default focus tends to be on the anxiety producing concerns of what others are thinking or doing, on what should be or could be, and on what appears as the accepting consensus. All the while, the depressed soul withers from its unattended cries of purpose, identity, needs, and passions. It’s hard to explain this to the disquieted person. It seems it has become easier to increase dosages and wait in line for a prescription than to address the pressing matter of who we really are, what living is really about, and how to live according to our individual purpose. We live in a sedated society, medicated by detached practitioners who themselves, through ignorance, evade the real issues and causes of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other ailments.
Addiction pertains to all of us. Though the problem may not be substances or compulsions, the condition of addiction is universal and we all experience it to some degree. Every time we turn away from what is true, what is good, what is just, what is virtuous- we take another “hit” in favor of what seems gratifying. While it may seem harmless-to look away or evade your responsibility-it erodes the soul and gradually removes us from our nature of loving, caring, feeling, uniting, connecting, etc. Being unable to face the reality that we are living in contrary to our nature, we continue to turn away, drifting further into pleasures and distractions until anxiety, or depression, or crisis signals us to take action. Recovery is a return to the fundamental aspects of being a person… it is the state of answering life’s questions with action of what is good for the world and what is my responsibility in this given moment. Recovery limits or all together turns away from distractions and pleasures that get in the way of this responsibility.
It’s surreal to think of how a thing, a substance, sometimes so small, sometimes invisible or pleasantly deceptive to the human eye can utterly destroy a life. Sometimes, these things appear to be beautiful in their rawest form. A swaying cocoa plant or a vibrant poppy add beauty to the fields they inhabit. It’s astonishing and at the same time unfathomable to accept the reality that these beautiful ornaments of nature-once they are separated from their original form and ingested-have the capacity to enslave and obliterate a person on every conceivable level.
I think of these beautiful intricacies of nature in their true essence…I think of the lives that were once whole and later became separated from themselves and the world because of addiction. This helps me understand that there is an objective and guiding principle pervading all living things: Nature and people thrive and are at their most beautiful in their wholeness, and this should never be tampered with…
“I know you won’t understand but in my lifetime I’ve seen the most beautiful thing life has to offer. I’ve seen the priceless battle of broken people creatively changing and overcoming toxic patterns. So beautiful and it’s costs me nothing” -Unknown
They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I believe everyone we encounter is our greatest teacher. The world serves as a mirror in which through experiences and interactions we learn more about the undesirable parts of ourselves we tend to overlook. The people we dislike or disagree with often reveal the characteristics within us we need to change. I’ve often become easily hurt at the indifference and aloofness of others, later taking an honest inventory of my own indifferences, that fearful part that would rather avoid social responsibility. There are people who just won’t change, a world that just won’t relent, and many breaks we just can’t catch… and yet they are all so charitable in giving us the knowledge of what needs to change within us. The world is a vast educational platform and its people are the mentors by which we discover who we want or don’t want to be. Most of us have been hurt beyond reconciliation by the people we love most. But if there’s any good that comes of it, may it be discovering parts of ourselves in others that we vow to change and never repeat.
I have to admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller. But there was something about his recent passing that impacted me. I guess, in some way, Mac Miller was a semblance, a representation of all the young men and women I had come to know over the past 13 years who had also fallen to the grips of addiction and as result went spiraling down to the harrowing end of an overdose. Like the young rapper, many of the people I came across had artistic dispositions, possessed a unique way of looking at the world, and always expressed themselves via creative means of music and art. Sometimes, they sang songs, poems, or played musical instruments in between therapeutic sessions. Sometimes, I’d watch in amazement as the words rhythmically escaped their mouths, cigarette hanging out of the side of their lips, their tattooed arms bearing the faded healing needle marks flaying about with the sounds of the music. These souls who I had come to know were soon gone, victims of drug dependency. I could still remember the songs, the poems, the debates, the drawings many of them left behind. It is this art, somehow clearly unfinished, that leaves behind a sense of bitterness and sorrow. I can remember rationalizing their deaths as “a part of the disease” in the many community vigils… later, having to pull my car over succumbed by the crushing reality: Addiction is powerful…indiscriminate, and it takes the lives of young men and women who possess great potential.
It has been through these individuals that I’ve confirmed there is something creative and divine about the addict. The addict lives an expressive life, in a state of constant desperation to reunite with a greater reality- unfortunately, many times, the connection is an erroneous one, sought artificially through a substance. Many addicts die in their relentless pursuit to be whole again, to be reunified with their source and relieved of their separateness. Mac Miller and the 350 souls that die daily from drug related deaths in the US alone should remind us all that money, fame, and achievement alone does not grant us wholeness and that the ultimate source of fulfillment must be sought after to make recovery possible.
The worst sickness in mental health is not classified as an illness. It is rare in contemporary psych literature and discussions. I would go as far to say that the majority of us are unknowingly suffering from it. Yet, when we closely examine the effects of this problem we find that it is correlated with all self-injurious, suicidal, and addictive behavior. These three problems contain the common theme of self-loathing-a self loathing that is perpetuated by the cunning and deadly state of denial. But it isn’t a denial of the actual behaviors that are my concern. It’s the denial of something deeper that evolves out of a mainstream consciousness that people are entirely good and that “badness” is an external mysterious force that selects only a small percentage of us. Wrong! The reality of human nature is that within it there is both good and evil and to exclusively attribute one to who we are is to deny our exact nature. People are good, but they are also inherently flawed and capable of evil. The goal is to live responsibly with these two natures. However, the majority point of view tends to deny this fact and what results is a perpetuation of symptoms and high risk behaviors. When we deny who we are and do not embrace our wholeness we become imprisoned by what we should be. When the evil or flawed nature arises, on a subconscious level, we experience discomfort, anxiety, and self loathing. The battle of suppression begins, often to intolerable heights leading to self-harm behaviors such as self-mutilation, addiction, and suicide. When we internalize the lie that man is good and that’s all that he SHOULD be, a frantic self-loathing society emerges-addicts use, cutters cut, and the hopeless attempt to nullify themselves into oblivion.
Imagine if we began to break the chains of internalized messages of what we should be and began to embrace what is- who we really are. When people fully acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses-their goodness and flaws- they are prone to inflict love rather than pain on themselves and others. I believe it’s time we awaken to the reality of the all encompassing duality of good and bad.
Addiction is a condition that brings us closer to what it means to be human. It is the dividing line that distinguishes between the mundane and Divine. The battle for recovery enables us to put away superficial matters and cling to a higher state of consciousness. It’s a discovery process in which you discard the meaningless things that hinder and you begin to find the essential characteristics that bring meaning and purpose into your life. The reality that addiction can kill paves the way for an inner desire to experience what is profoundly authentic. We found we could no longer spend time and energy on comparing, competing against, or criticizing people around us…addiction becomes our best teacher. We needed to live and in striving to do so we learned how to let go and do the one thing that mattered most: Love.”